Despite falling out of the football league age 20, former Cheltenham Town centre half Matt Bower still has his sights set on a return to the pro ranks in the future.
‘Its about keeping busy, I’ve gone from being a full-time footballer to training twice a week and playing on Saturday. It’s something I’ve found hard to get used to but in the Football League it’s something you need to balance’.
‘Most of the lads are working full time and training in the evenings, I haven’t had to do that in my carer yet, its still taking some getting used to’.
‘I had a slight incline that I was going to be released. At the end of the season I had a meeting with Michael Duff, it was quite straight-forward in that he told me unfortunately the club wouldn’t be offering me a contract’.
Duff himself was no stranger to being released as a player however gave Bower some advice about moving forward.
‘He told me about him getting let go himself, he said it can either make or break you as a player and sometimes it can be for the better. Get away work on your own game and see where you are at’’.
By his own admission Bower accepted that he perhaps hadn’t done enough to earn a new contract, he had been away on loan with Weston-Super Mare but believed his performances didn’t warrant the reward.
‘if I’m being honest, in my last year I didn’t feel I deserved a new deal. I had been on loan most the season and although I thought I’d done alright, but whenever I had played for Cheltenham I don’t think I had done enough to get that contract, it was probably fair’.
Being let go of the club you supported as a boy will never be a fond experience, however when Jerry Gill, a former Cheltenham player who Bower used to watch from the stands showed an interest and a deal was agreed, Bower signed for Bath.
‘I had options elsewhere, there were chances to go more further afield, there were opportunities in Scotland and similar clubs across the country but, for me it was about trying to stay local’.
‘Playing at Bath and under Gill is a good opportunity. He’s been at the club a while now; all the boys respect him and he will get the club going places. We are mid-table but we should be pushing higher, we are only a few wins away from the playoff spots.
It hasn’t been all plan sailing at Twerton Park though. Lack of regular game time being in and out the team has left Bower frustrated.
‘When I’m playing I feel like I’m doing alright but when you look at the results and we are conceding goals obviously some things have to change but I don’t necessarily think I’m at fault for the goals.
‘I don’t know whether I will or wont (get back into the football league) but that’s what I want to do in the future. I don’t want to spend my whole career in the national league, it’s not that I don’t like playing here, I want to push myself to the highest level.
Although he stands at 6 7’ and was touted as decent ball playing centre half with a good left foot, Bower knows his frame and athleticism won’t get him a move back to the football league, its going to take a lot more than just his presence.
‘I need to be playing regularly, I need to be playing well and with my attributes that’s what might make me stand out. It might take one good season, it might be two or three’.
‘The standard of football in this league is very good, the majority of the players have played a lot of professional football, we played against George Elekobi at the weekend, he’s played in the Premier League’.
‘If I can consistently do well against players like these. I hope that’s what will get me noticed’.
But for Bower, the current focus is how he keeps himself busy. After spending the majority of his adult’ years as a professional footballer keeping fit and mentally focused is key in moving forward and at only 20 years old there is still time for that contract.
‘I’m training twice a week, I preferred training more, it kept me sharp and it was about waiting for them opportunities. Now its down to me to work hard, get some regular game time and make my own luck’.
After Ryan Brunt sealed a 95th minute equaliser against Maidstone Untied infront of over 1300 fans on National Non-League Day this weekend, Bath are back on the road against struggling St. Albans on Saturday.